swissco cocoa

ANALYSIS OF SWISSCO ANNUAL REPORT. IMPROVED TRACEABILITY, CHALLENGES REMAIN

In a brief review of the Swissco Annual Report 2020, the authors point to improved traceability, but challenges remain.

Swissco describes itself as a multi-stakeholder organisation, with a number of external stakeholder companies that help provide direction.

The report has an Executive Summary which could have been more punchy and follows with a more interesting full report which is readable and quite well structured.

The authors are sometimes guilty of falling into the malaise of using management buzz phrases. For example, in their executive summary section, they say:

“The persisting challenges of poverty, child labour, climate change and biodiversity require a deepening and dissemination of the innovative pilot approaches through strong partnerships. The platform is therefore strengthening its cooperation with European partner initiatives and intensifies its dialogue with local authorities in the future.”

These occasional transgressions, however, do not define the document, which is a quality report.

I appreciated that words used to describe elements of the initiatives, such as sustainability, are defined. 

The definitions are inserted as footnotes on the relevant page so I was not required to hunt around the report to learn what any word meant in a particular context.

Tightly defining key terms is an antidote to greenwashing reports, where common definitions are assumed, but never defined, giving the authors plausible deniability that they intended a different meaning. 

Key Findings

  • Imports of sustainably produced cocoa into Switzerland increased by 19 percentage points to 74%, an important step towards achieving the interim target of 80% by 2025. Imports of sustainable cocoa butter recorded a strong increase from 36% to 59%. The share of sustainably imported cocoa beans also increased slightly to 96% (up 6 percentage points).
  • Value chain projects in producing countries foster the impacts of sustainable sourcing through certification and verification. In cooperation with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and its members, the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa (SWISSCO) is currently implementing 14 projects in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Togo, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica. The innovative pilot projects are helping to improve the production and living conditions of over 90,000 cocoa farmers, 30% of whom are women.
  • In 2020, 59% of the cocoa butter was imported from sustainable production. This is a significant increase of 23 percentage points compared to the previous year (36% in 2019).
  • Based on the Swiss Foreign Trade Statistics, 125,949 tons of cocoa and cocoa products were imported into Switzerland in 2020. This corresponds to 108,855 tons of cocoa bean equivalents. The largest proportion of the imports is taken by cocoa beans (45%) and cocoa butter (32%), followed by cocoa paste (10%) and cocoa powder (5%).

On pages 14 onwards in the report, there is a particularly useful section that lists the different projects including funding amounts allocated to each.

Some of these projects could do with better descriptions. I also wonder if Swissco has feasibility studies they could open up to the public. For example, one project description is as follows:

“The project targets the development and implementation of an open-source software solution to collect, process and transparently visualize immutable data along the cocoa supply chain. The software will enable businesses and other stakeholders within the chocolate industry and beyond to assume responsibility for the sustainability of their value chain.

Through easily adaptable modules, the software has the capability to capture any kind of information on cultivation, trade, and processing of cocoa, as well as on farmers, cooperatives and other stakeholders along the value chain. At the end of this first, co-financed phase, the software will have been implemented and evaluated in various settings and will be made available for free download and usage on a source code management.”

This sounds like a blockchain solution to me, and it’s great that they are leveraging an open-source solution to build this platform on, but I question the need for it since a number of solutions are already developed or being developed. I’d also like to know which open source license is applied and whether the platform itself will therefore be license-free for others to later adopt and adapt to their own needs.

The project has a total budget earmarked for CHF 517,000 or EUR 477,000 which is a lot of money. A good business case may exist for developing the software, but without seeing the feasibility study it’s hard to know if this is money well spent. Of course, that is a commercial decision for the organisation, so perhaps it’s not necessary for us to know the details. It’s great that they supply this much information.

Summary

I hope I can find the time to read through this report in more detail, there is some good information here, and It provides an idea of scope and context to the operations of the organisation.

One suggestion I have is that it would be useful to show a table of previous projects and funding and outcomes so that we could see at a glance how well previous projects had fared.

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